Monthly Archives: October 2013

Cover Crops and Native Insectary Wildflowers

Clover and native wildflowers


To enhance the soil and limit water uptake, typically cover crops are planted.

Next week, I’ll spread 30-40 pounds of clover on the entire vineyard and 5 pounds of Native Wildflowers on select rows.  The Wildflowers will add beauty, but more importantly, be an insectary for bees and good insects to protect the vines.  BTW…clover is about $3/pound but the Wildflowers were $22/pound.  I had better not mow them down in the spring!!!

What is in the Wildflower Mix?  Blue Eyed Grass, California Ble Bell, Chinese Houses, Goldfields, Baby Blue Eyes, Tidy Tips, Birds Eye, Blue Flax, Lupine, Farewell-to-Spring, California Poppy, Arroyo Blue Lupine, Yarrow, Five Spot and Globe Gilia.



2013 Sauvignon Blanc – Pick/Destem/Press/Rack/Ferment

jeanette and Joey


We waited for Joey’s friend Jeanette to arrive from Texas and then picked, destemmed and pressed our Sauvignon Blanc.

We ended up with 200 pounds (enough for 4 1/2 cases).  Brix 21.5, pH 3.6 and TA 3.9.  Just about perfect…with very nice flavor and brown seeds.  Last year we picked at the same time as the Pinot, but this year I put a little to much fruit on the vines so it had to ripen for an extra 6 weeks.


Joey Grapes


Joey with her harvest


grapes and press


We pulled out all the same equipment as with the Pinot.  The real exception with white vs red is you ferment the red on its skins and with the white you press it right away.  The press held the 200 pounds easily, in fact I think we could have had 600 pounds in the 170L press.


sb 2013


Here is the wine after we racked the gross lees.  You can see that the fermentation has started after we added yeast on 10/21.  It should take around 8 days and then we will rack off the lees and add malolactic bacteria and let it ferment again for a few months.

2013 Sauvignon Blanc – Ready to Pick

Sauv Blanc Nets


For most vineyards the 3rd leaf is the first time you get grapes.  Not so for Joey’s Sauvignon Blanc.  Last year (her second year) we got 35 lbs which resulted in 2 gallons of wine.  In addition, we harvested her grapes the same time as the Pinot Noir on Sept 23rd.

This year I left a little to much fruit on the vines given it does not get as much sun as the Pinot Noir, so it has grown well but is 5 weeks behind in ripening.  However, we have had almost no rain and the days have been warm so it is finally ready to pick!  How do I know?  The birds have started to peck and eat the grapes.

Sunday we will pick, destem and crush the grapes…then on Monday we will rack and introduce yeast…fun, fun, fun!!!



Stirring Lees and of course, Tasting!



Our 2013 Pinot Noir is now 3 weeks in “barrel” resting on fine lees.  It is undergoing malolactic fermentation and I expect this will take another 1-3 months as the nights here are becoming chilly.

Another item we are doing differently this year is that we will stir our lees every few weeks.  The theory is that it will enhance the mouth feel of the wine.  So…I was off to TAP Plastics this morning to purchase a food grade 54″ long, 3/8″ diameter rod.  Worked like a charm.

And of course…had to have a little taste to start the morning out right.  It was wonderful and I think better than the 2012 at the same stage last year.  A side note…last year we added an enzyme for color and quicker clarification.  We found out this is not needed for Pinot Noir so we didn’t do it this year, but you could notice the wine is not as clear.  It will take a little longer to fall clear!


How to predict harvest date – Growing Degree Days/Bud Break/Veraison…Part II

Truck with grapes
As I sit here in October I’m reflecting on the year and trying to determine additional changes to make for 2014. I have been tracking milestones in the vineyard to determine if I can predict the harvest date early in the year…and it looks like with 2 years worth of data I can (so far).

Year                                       2013             2012           Difference

Bub Break                                3/5               3/20            -15
Veraison                                  7/8               7/21            -13
Harvest                                   9/11              9/23            -12
Brix Adjustment                      23.5              23.0            -3
Brix Adjusted Harvest                                                    -15
Growing Degree Days            2000            1786           -14

Wow…back in March I could have predicted the harvest date in September!  Better yet…if I track Growing Degree Days throughout the year it will let me get an idea of the harvest date early…all this is assuming no big heat spikes!

One last item….back in April last year I predicted 2.75 tons of grapes  based on a simple formula of pounds per grape and we came in at 2.61.  Not bad….for 2014 I’m going out on a limb and predicting 4.2 tons.


Pinot Noir Jelly – or What to do with Seconds!

jars of jelly


What do you when you have picked all your grapes for wine and are left with seconds?  (What are seconds?  They are the very small cluster of grapes above the fruit zone and are about 4 weeks behind in ripeness)  Well…first you pick them.  In our case we got around 55 pounds.  And then you make jelly, lots of jelly!!!  This is how we spent our Saturday.  If you want a great recipe to make Pinot Noir, or other grape Jelly, that doesn’t mask the taste of your grapes with too much sugar, download the eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen .  We ended up with 55 1-cup Jelly Jars and an extra 8 cups of grape juice.

Bucket of grapes


New Bladder Press in Action !


After 5 days cold soak and 8 days of fermentation, it was time to press.  This year we pressed when the hydrometer reading hit 0.3, which means we had a little sugar left to ferment.  If you are not familiar with a hydrometer it measures the density of the mixture and has a dual scale for density/sugar content.


It is the preference of the winery where to press during the fermentation process.  Most of the skin tannins are obtained early in the process as they are water soluble and the seed/wood tannins are more alcohol soluble so they are picked up at the end of fermentation.  I want a more fruit forward Pinot, so I press early and let the fermentation end when all the skins/seeds/wood are removed.

One thing you can’t see is the intense color and taste of the pressed skins.  At the end of the press cycle is very intense wine…that tastes great if you don’t go to long.

After the wine is pressed I allow it to settle for 1 day and then rack off the gross lees.  In my opinion, if I left them with the wine and was not careful I could pick up some back sulfur odors.




Finally, we have added some French Toasted Oak during malolactic fermentation to allow this flavor to blend in, and then the wine is put to bed while we wait for the malolactic fermentation to finish before we taste the final product.  In about 6 weeks we will sulfur and let it age.


We ended up with 74 gallons of wine from a little over 1/2 ton of grapes.